tv Newsmakers CSPAN February 23, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm EST
>> both. 2016 is the end-all and be-all for the political cycle. the presidential election is always where everyone is paying attention. but you have control of the house and senate. >> the senate is in play. >> i will be looking at whether they can continue to get the high number of african-americans turning out to vote and not only the 2016 presidential elections, but in the midterm elections. if that number fluctuates, if it drops, the democrats could be looking at a tough year in the polls. >> what happens if the republicans controlled the senate and the house? if there is a republican-controlled congress, what does that mean for president obama and all of his supporters, and his ability to tackle the issues on their own agenda. >> with this more focused lens on the african-american community.
>> exactly. >> thank you for your time. >> thank you. >> c-span, we bring affairs directly to you putting you into the room of congressional hearings, white house events and offering gavel to gavel coverage of the u.s. house all as a public service of public industry. we were created by the cable tv industry 35 years ago. and like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. >> a discussion hosted by columbia university about journalism and how it has changed since the guardian published a leaks from former contractor edward snowden. panels and include the u.s. editor in chief of the guardian. new york times executive editor and a member of the president's
committee. they spoke for about one and a half hours. >> good evening. if you're interested and care about the u.s. constitution and freedom of speech and press, protected by the first amendment, or if you care about the role of journalism and the press in informing the public about important public issues, or if you care about the rules and rights of leakers of government classified information, or the level of information the public needs to exercise our responsibilities of self-government in a democracy, or the role of the state in keeping its citizens safe and functions effectively, or in the perplexing problems of working out a global system of free expression, in a new world defined by a truly global communications system, and
nations with vastly different views about the freedom of speech and press, if any or all of this interests you, then tonight is your night. we can look forward to hearing from distinguished leaders of some of the most important press institutions in the world. which have had direct recent firsthand experience in these issues. and one of the key figure notice current surveillance debate who also possesses one of the finest legal minds of my generation and who has been a friend and colleague for many years. the questions to be discussed tonight are profound. among them is this one in particular. in the united states, we have worked out, over the past half century, through major supreme court decisions, led by the pentagon papers case in 1974, through legislation and through custom and behavior by the government and the press, a
workable, if unique and somewhat unruly, system. it goes something like this. there is no official secrets regime in this country. as there is, for example in britain. the government has full constitutional freedom to classify information as it wishes. for its part, the press may receive classified information from government employees who are disposed to hand over classified documents. moreover, subject to a variety of legal subtleties and nuances, the press may publish those classified documents with constitutional protection. the leaker on the other hand may be prosecuted with little or no first amendment protection. the only question being just how vigorously the government will track down and prosecute the leaker. in practice over the years, not many leakers have suffered that fate. also, by custom, the press will typically discuss what has been in its possession with the government and make a careful
judgment about what to publish and what would be too harmful to publish. and the government in turn does not try to push the legal interpretations that might support a breach of the first amendment protections of the press. every nation must reach some sort of balance and accommodation of these competing interests. and arguably up to now, this has worked well in the united states. but what happens now, should the balance be struck in the same way? a world in which hundreds of thousands of classified documents can be leaked in a second, by leakers who may wish to do harm, not good, to society, then disclosed by organizations that are not necessarily public-spirited in the sense of "the new york times," "the guardian" or "the washington post." and when any publication is now instantly global in scope and may violate the laws of other nations states. what now indeed? these are the kinds of
questions, like others, involving state acquisition of massive data about activities of citizens that institute the end-all and in which a society ultimately defines itself, especially in the respective roles of the state and its citizens. so tonight's discussion is a special moment in that larger sense. it is now my great pleasure to introduce our wonderful new dean of the graduate school of journalism. [applause] >> thank you and welcome. tonight's event marks the public launch of a project of the columbia journalism school called "journalism after snowden." it's a project made possible by the tao foundation. i'd like to recognize len tao who is sitting here tonight for his support. and it constitutes a year-long
series of events, research and writing from the tao center for digital journalism which my colleague at the columbia journalism school faculty directs. and it's being carried out in collaboration with the columbia journalism review whose new editor and publisher is here with us tonight. as we have so eloquently described, and i won't attempt to repeat, the snowden affair has sparked an unprecedented debate about digital privacy, the pursuit of national security after september 11, and the power of the state. it's also sparked an important and continuing debate about constitutional rights in the united states and globally governing the press and free expression. but it's also changed journalism and is in the process of changing journalism and has raised profound questions about the practice of journalism that feel very unsettled and that's going to be one subject of the panel tonight.
these include shield laws and subpoena defense, the sort of front line experience of reporters under pressure in their relations with confidential sources. the very viability of a regime of source protection in the digital age, how to define and spread sound practices of digital security. and the growing professional-amateur divide in journalism caused by the de-institutionalization of many reporting functions. all of these are subjects of the larger project of "journalism after snowden." it will constitute over the year ahead a series of articles about the implications of state surveillance and, for the practice of journalism, research about changing journalistic conduct in a time of data insecurity and state surveillance. and we intend to carry out an in depth survey of the practices of
investigative reporters, their use of digital security tools, their understanding of them, and the potential to improve the security practices of working journalists. and, finally, we intend to bring forward online resources that will be available to all journalists, to assist them in protecting their data and their sources and to make recommendations for the protection both of journalists and the people that they collaborate with in and out of government. that all lies ahead. tonight what brings us together is this extraordinary panel that my colleague emily will now direct and introduce. so i thank you for being here and for your attention. emily, over to you. [applause] >> thank you. thank you all, all of you, including the late students, for turning out tonight. for what we believe is going to be a very important year of work for us. my colleagues are looking very enthusiastic.
we're incredibly lucky to have this great panel with us here tonight. and i think this will be a great moment to address many of the issues that we've already had framed. but before i introduce, i have two important pieces of housekeeping, one of which is to say in true columbian journalism disclosure, i worked on "the guardian" for a long time. if you if you're worried this is too close and cozy a panel, i'm here to tell that you you're correct. it's your job to be the effective opposition. and the second is that we couldn't have a better panel tonight but we know there are many, many voices who are not included on the panel. there are the reporters who were involved in really finding the story. we're very lucky to have one of the reporters who broke many of the stories through "the washington post" here tonight.
i'll be going to him just to get a quick response to what he's heard. and then we'll be having some q&a from the audience as well. please be thinking of questions because i'm sure there are plenty i will not get to. so, to introduce the panel. on my immediate left is janine gibson who is the editor in chief of "guardian u.s." which broke the initial stories. and next to her we have the editor of the "new york times" on the west side. needs no introduction. but nevertheless we're delighted to have her here. she's a member of the board of visitors of the journalism school. and also i think it's fair to say that "the new york times" is still the voice, the editorial voice which is probably most listened to by the establishment in the u.s. i hope that's not too controversial. next we have david schultz.
david is a leading first amendment lawyer. he's very kind to make time in his schedule to teach up here at the law school. he's a partner at a law firm. he is "the guardian's" lawyer on the n.s.a. and before that he was external counsel to "the new york times" on wikileaks, i believe. so he has been inside two of the biggest stories of this time. and we're very, very pleased to have cass here. one of the things we have sought is to get members of the administration or the n.s.a. to come and talk to us. they're not quite ready for that yet. we hope they will. at some point. he's one of the country's leading scholars in constitutional law. he served in the obama administration as the administration of the white house office of information. he's served many of my students, who are very excited.
he's married to the u.s. ambassador to the u.n. but tonight he's here as a member of president obama's review committee on intelligence and communications technologies which is one of the panels convened in response to the revelations by snowden. so we are going to address what's the "journalism after snowden," but first i want to go to janine first. i think some of us are familiar with this, some less familiar. can you tell us about actually breaking the story? tell us a little bit about how it came to you and then what it was like so you can set the scene of how -- what is it like to deliver a story of that size to the world? >> well, it starts very small, of course. like everything. it starts with a phone call from glen greenwald and i should say, you know, "the guardian" is a 200-year-old news organizations with a storied history of breaking large stories, we are wikileaks, we're even accustomed to the megaleak.
but in america, we're 2 1/2 years old and we live in a small loft in soho and while we all have "guardian" running through us and our combined work history might be eight years or so, in america we don't look like a 200-year-old news organization. we call ourselves "g" by "the guardian." so i'm sitting in a soho loft and i got a call from glen and he said, i think i have the biggest intelligence leak in a generation. if not ever. >> i like it when reporters undersell stories. [laughter] >> well, obviously your first thought is, we might be the judge of that. oddly, because of wikileaks, and the various measures we'd had to take while working on it, i knew that skype was not a particularly safe form of
technology. and i knew that glen had a skype phone. so my first question was, are you calling me from your delightful rio residence on your skype phone? he said, yes. i said -- hmm. so we didn't talk very much. in that conversation. it became very clear that the first thing he was going to have to do was get on a plane. he explained that he was going to see a sample of the material, that he'd had encrypted conversations with the source. it's funny to remember now. we did not know his name. we didn't know his name. he was the source. for a quite long time after we did know his name, we kept referring to him as the source because he'd been the source for so long. he was going to get this small sample of material and look at it and he would call me back and if he thought it was good, he would get on a plane to new york. so within five days he was in our loft. and there were five of us in the room then.
myself and glen and laura and a reporter. in the entire universe of "the guardian" staff, if you could pick someone you wanted to have outside your office when he walks in with the biggest intelligence leak in possibly ever, it is ewan. he's not here so i can say grizzled. he's done everything. he's been to every war-torn hot spot, he was the d.c. bureau chief. and he's the person you send to the fire, whatever the fire is. when it became clear that, you know, we're sitting there on the cheapest sofa in the world, on an air gap computer that we've had to sent somebody out to best buy to buy, looking at what later turns out is the prison presentation and you've seen the slides.
they don't look like the most top secret thing in the world. but quickly, very quickly realize, it's either an incredibly huge, sensitive, difficult story, or it's the hitler diaries. it's a great big hoax and the next job is verification. he was straight away into how do you verify it. >> how long was the verification process? >> it was really intense. we put people on a plane to hong kong and they went to a hotel and i think everybody knows a detail that was maddeningly reported first in "the new york times." they identified edward snowden by use of a rubix cube in a hotel lobby. and couldn't believe he was 29. we assumed when we were looking at the material and the description of the rest of the material that this was going to be somebody very senior, this was going to be somebody really high in the ranks of n.s.a. we were expecting -- and then we couldn't work out the psychology of it. in new york waiting to hear from the people on the ground in hong
kong, you spend a lot of time speculating. what would cause somebody who is career n.s.a. to walk out with the crown jewels? they saw this kid walking through a lobby and they thought, that's not him. then of course you're right into the hitler diaries. we had him briefed on the standards of verification that we'd want and he spent three days locked in a room interviewing him, show me this i.d., show me this car parking pass. they were very convinced by him. and his motives. and of course the material that he had. and then you move straight into, what of the story? what can we do? and the first one was clearly, the fisa court order. >> it should be made clear there are 56,000 documents, is that right? >> no, there are many more than that. many more than that. there are 56,000 in one cache alone. which was the cache that edward snowden gave to ewan.
caches.e several other >> does anyone actually know -- can anyone quantify what the size of the leak is? >> i don't think anybody knows. the n.s.a. said for a while that they did know and then they said they didn't. >> so, just on the launch of the story. it's june 5. >> yes. we're working in huge amounts of secrecy at this point. we have realized that communications at hong kong are necessarily going to be sparse and very highly encoded. the first thing we did was fly james bowl to new york. he's a veteran of wikileaks. sitting in the second row. and freakishly young. really annoyingly young. but brilliant at all things involving cryptology and technology. he can also fix a printer. >> very important. [laughter] i didn't know that. we must call him. >> without putting it on the
network. but he came and introduced us to disposable chat rooms and properly secure technology. then we had to teach glen and ewan how to use it from london. fortunately again they were being taught how to do it. if you're going to learn how to do encrypted technology, be taught by the person who works at the n.s.a. doing encrypted technology. they came back really knowing how to move documents around securely. but we're trying to edit the report and stand up and verify a story about a document that nobody's ever seen, nobody -- you can't google secret fisa court orders if it looks like one that's in the public -- nothing. no, that's not funny. that's a genuine problem when you're trying to work out what it is. but we realize they have been referred to in reporting and that one of the crucial factors around this document is that, if you are the subject of a fisa court order, there's a gagging order. and you can't refer to it.
so we knew the first call we had to make was to verizon and if the spokesman said there was no such thing, then we were not allowed to do that. but actually, they said, we'll call you back. then they called back very quickly and said, sorry, can i just check, what's the name of the agency on the gag order? on the fisa court order? and what is the date? which we were listening to this and thinking, it's a bit like -- is it the pink one or the yellow one? [laughter] so we started to think -- but up until that point you've got a huge amount of work in it. enormous amount of money already. barely even started paying david's bills and you're still thinking, this could be nothing. this could be a massive, massive hoax. but when the verizon called -- so the verizon call was tremendously important. we were working to script at that point but we knew that was a really big step in verifying the story. then we spoke to the
administration and then it became very clear that it was in fact a genuine document. at which point, we have been incredibly lucky. there's only two questions you need to ask yourself and they are, is this story true and is it in the public interest? and before we went down this road, we spent a lot of time with several lawyers making sure that our ethical, moral journalistic interpretation of the public interest matched up with the legal interpretation of public interest, both here and globally. so then it really did come down to verification and is it true? and we have basically tried to hold on to those two twin pillars ever since. if you're really holding onto, is it in the public interest, and line by line, that's what we worry about, it sort of takes away from the enormous thing that you're, doing, by starting to publish these stories. >> i want to bring jill in. at what point did "the new york times" get involved?
were you approached by "the guardian" with the documents or did you solicit them? >> i would say it was a delicate combination of those two things. we did not break the story, "the guardian" and "the washington post" did. that caused me a high degree of worry. >> what did it cause the news room? >> i think the news room was resolute. i think disappointed, as was i, that we didn't break the story. but it was not at the forefront of the psyche of my colleagues. but it was, you know, a concern of mine and i felt that we had had the very productive
collaboration with "the guardian" on wikileaks. obviously "the new york times" broke the pentagon papers story, which president bollinger eloquently evoked in his opening remarks. and in 2005 we had published the first story about warrantless eavesdropping by the n.s.a. so, i felt all of that provided a very firm base, you know, that made a powerful argument that "the times" had a constructive role to play in these stories. actually, i've heard from allen the first weekend after the stories were published. the editor of "the guardian." and we had a chat in my office
the following week and sort of -- it was a somewhat vague conversation about collaborating and maybe we could and as any aggressive journalist would do, the door was a little bit open and i tried to stick my foot in it and keep, you know, keep it opening a little wider. from time to time i would call allen and just say, you know, we'd love to work with you and nothing happened for a while and then he did get in touch with me and the catalyst, i believe, for him reaching out to me was that he definitely had the sense that the british government was about to come down very hard on "the guardian" and probably demand the return of the materials and he was deathly worried that the public interest role that janine
spoke so powerfully about the plug would be yanked. >> of course that was proved to be the case. >> exactly. sometime before the authorities actually came to "the guardian" and they had to literally destroy their drives and what not, "the times" did obtain some but not all of the snowden materials from "the guardian" and we agreed to abide by all of the protocols that "the guardian" had established for keeping these materials as safe as possible. i think that's a really important point.
it's not the sexiest point but you were asking janine about the process by which they verified the story. i would say the process by which "the guardian" sort of schooled us in exactly how we needed to handle the documents, safe keep them, communicate in a very secure manner, that that is probably, you know, took up days of janine and me talking before we got a lick of actual work done. i just think that that point is somewhat lost on the public. sometimes they think, oh, a leak, it's just a bunch of stuff that's thrown at us and we just rush to publish it. and that is never the case and could be the least true in this situation. >> this touches on something that i want to come back to just before i move on. the two of you, the surprise of
of these stories, the unknowable end, you know, even with the pentagon papers, you could fit them into a shopping cart. and wheel them across the news room. and part of that was actually, you know, ellsberg had to make selection choices partly on the basis of what he could actually get out. now we have these unknowably large stories that technically are incredibly difficult. but also isn't the difficulty of them an enormous journalistic challenge? you talked a little bit about the difficulty of that. there must have been times when both of you thought, are we actually capable of reporting this story? >> i think from the beginning we realized we couldn't do it alone in different ways. there was a very obvious point, we were running this as a new
baby foreign addition of "the guardian." the first thing we had to do was crawl back to the parent company and put in some help. but the second thing you realize is you're going to need outside experts. we talk a lot about being open at "the guardian." it's one of our philosophies of how we work. this story that is the most secret thing you could ever do but at the same time you have to accept you can't do alone. you're going to need security experts, you're going to need to consult with experts. other news organizations, because your material could get destroyed or because there's a chill in the u.k. and we have brought in partners to work on an enormous number of the stories. on top of that, you have to make up how you're going to assess the material. we almost had a contract about how we were going to search it. we were really keen that we weren't going to use these
documents as a fisher exercise. there wasn't going to be a team -- with the wikileaks documents, which are much less sensitive, much lower level, we would bring in, you know, subject specialist journalists and they could have a search and -- and country specialists. >> country specialists. this is a very different sort of thing. you don't want to be using national security material to -- you want to use it to confine to the scope of the nature of the surveillance in front of you. we have had all sorts of conversations about how to build boundaries about what we were -- we would report and then conversations about how best to do that practically. do you put a small team in for two weeks, get them to whittle down a short list of stories. >> that is what we did. and that's what we did in wikileaks too. in both cases, we worked closely with "the guardian", a very small group of editors and